STU DICKSON 4 AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3111
Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2021
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
CASE NO: 3111
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF STU DICKSON AGAINST STUFF
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: SEPTEMBER 2021
Stu Dickson complained about a story published on the Stuff website on 9 September 2021 headed Covid-19: Dr Siouxsie Wiles warns of ‘disinformation’ after claims she was caught breaking lockdown rules. Dr Wiles was quoted as saying the video and story about meeting her “bubble buddy” at the beach and accusations she was breaking the rules were disinformation that was designed to discredit her and disrupt the country’s collective response to Covid-19. She outlined why she was allowed to do what she did, and acknowledged her friend had broken the rules by going swimming. The story noted that Opposition leader Judith Collins had called Dr Wiles a “big, fat hypocrite”.
Stu Dickson complained that the story lacked balance and read like a defence of Dr Wiles.
He asked, would the story have been so sympathetic if it had been Judith Collins or someone else? The article failed to acknowledge Dr Wiles had breached her own advice on mask-wearing and not stopping to chat with a friend when out. Mr Dickson said it was clear the friend should not have been in Dr Wiles’ bubble. He also asked why it was acceptable for Dr Wiles to ride 5km on her bike when then Health Minister David Clark was criticised for a 2km bike ride
Stuff replied that the story was a very straightforward report of the claims and Dr Wiles’ response to them. Stuff had reviewed all the claims of what had occurred, including the bubble, masks and movements and found there wasn’t a breach to report. Mask use was not required with a person in your bubble. The friend lived alone and was in Dr Wiles’ bubble. The comparison between Dr Clark and Dr Wiles was not comparable, as mountain-biking was not recommended because it was considered a risky activity.
Mr Dickson said Stuff’s response did not fully or fairly address the hypocrisy involved. It was a “one-sided puff piece that clearly takes Wiles’ side”.
The Media Council concurs with Stuff that this was a straightforward story covering Dr Wiles’ response to the criticisms made of her. Mr Dickson complained that Stuff had taken Dr Wiles’ side, but coverage of the video and the criticism of Dr Wiles’ had been extensive and this report allowed Dr Wiles to put her point of view and explain her actions. The opinions expressed were those of Dr Wiles not those of the journalist or Stuff. The Council notes that Ms Collins’ suggestion that Dr Wiles was a hypocrite was included in the story and provided balance.
There are insufficient grounds for the complaint to proceed.